I love the name of this wine. The blocks where the Pinot Noir grapes are harvested for this wine are called Stagecoach Road because the vineyard is located along, you guessed it, Stagecoach Road. But the amusing part of this anecdote is that the road is so-named because it is the very same Black Bart used when he robbed the Wells Fargo Stagecoach in 1877. The interesting thing about this vineyard is that it sits in a bit of a pocket on the estate, so the Pacific Coast fog tends to sink right in, lengthening the ripening period and creating some deep, brooding flavors in the grapes and, thus, the wines. With that in mind, I think they should change the name to Black Bart’s Pinot Noir. Just a gentle suggestion…
Fort Ross Vineyard focuses their vines to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The interesting thing about tasting from a winery with focused varietal selection is how different the resulting wines are based on individual block location, clonal selection, and of course the winemaking methods. The grapes for the Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Mother of Pearl Chardonnay consist of old Wente clones, grown atop the estate’s highest elevated vineyards. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni highlights the complexity of the resulting fruit with his minimalistic winemaking approach.
In 1988 South African natives Lester and Linda Schwartz had been living in the Bay Area for just about 10 years when they decided to purchase the, then, untouched property atop the cliffside slopes of the Sonoma Coast. Convinced the land was suitable for grapevines, Lester ordered two dozen dormant rootstocks, planting a test vineyard with 16 varieties, three trellis systems, assorted clones and rootstocks. It took four years, but the couple found the most successful plantings were of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and spent the next ten years cultivating their 53-acre vineyard, complete with roads, subterranean drainage, and irrigation system. Alongside a small vineyard crew, Lester and Linda created thirty-two blocks of vines, carefully choosing which blocks were most suitable for which clones.
A taste of Fort Ross Vineyards wines means a taste of focused Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a testament to what the cool climate and proximity to the Pacific Ocean does for these grapes. Indeed, among the Fort Ross Vineyards lineup, one can taste single-vineyard and even single-block expressions of either of these two varietals and experience how specific vineyard block orientation affects both the tastes and textures of resulting wines.
Of course one can’t get the full Fort Ross Vineyards experience without tasting a glass of Pinotage. Yes, during the course of building their vineyard acreage, Lester and Linda sourced bud wood from their native South Africa (where Pinotage claims the country’s “heritage grape” title), had it quarantined and tested through UC Davis, and became the first private growers, and eventually commercial producers, of Pinotage.
I’d been so eager to taste from Fort Ross Vineyards for so long. The reputation of the South African couple who paved the way for Fort Ross-Seaview becoming an AVA and who are the first commercial producers of Pinotage in California far proceeded them, making them almost celebrities in my book. After tasting the Fort Ross Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir I understood why that reputation has stayed a strong one, and my expectations were not disappointed. Shortly after that review I was invited to visit with the winery’s winemaker, Jeff Pisoni. So on the eve of that visit, I decided to “study” up and taste what the Fort Ross Chardonnay has to say.(more…)
I can’t think of a better way to introduce this wine than with the story of how it got its name…
From Yorkville Cellars Founder, Ed Wallo:
Richard I was the King of England from 1189-1199. Along with the kingship of England, Richard also inherited Dukedoms and Counties across Europe too numerous to list here, one of which was Aquitaine, known to us in modern times as Bordeaux, in the south west of France. Richard is famous for spending very little time in England, preferring to spend most of his time fighting. However, he understood that his war machine required one very important thing: top quality wine.
In 1199 Richard signed a charter that granted, for the first time, self governance to a group of the King’s subjects. The city of Saint-Émilion on the Gironde River, just northeast of what is now the city of Bordeaux, received the right to govern itself in exchange for quality-control checking every barrel of wine that was shipped from their port to Richard’s troops. If the sampled barrel passed the taste test, the side was burned with the King’s royal seal. If it didn’t, it was hurled into the river.
The six Noble Red grapes that were planted in Richard’s time are some of the same ones we have planted in our vineyard at Yorkville today. Those same varietals all blended together (as in this blend) was the wine Richard, with his refined palate, was gulping down after the heat of battle.
Cool story, no? So let us taste with our refined palates, this most royal of red blends…